A Hollywood casting director charged with failing to comply with sex offender registry laws testified Tuesday that his use of a professional alias was not an attempt to hide his criminal past.
“I’ve spent so long trying to become a productive member of society there’s nothing I want to do to go back to jail,” Jason James Murphy told a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge during a hearing in Beverly Hills to determine whether prosecutors have enough evidence to proceed to trial.
Murphy, who used the stage name “Jason James” to cast child actors in films like “Super 8" and “The Three Stooges,” is charged with failure to file a name change with authorities as required by the sex offender statute. He was convicted in Washington state of the 1996 kidnapping of an 8-year-old boy and served five years in prison.
On the witness stand, Murphy said he had used “Jason James” on movie productions before his crime and continued to do so after his release with the aim of building a body of professional work under a single credit.
His resume, voice mail message and email address identified him as Jason James and “Super 8" casting director Alyssa Weisberg testified that in nine months of working together, she knew him only by that name. He used it to introduce himself to young actors and their parents at auditions, she said.
But Murphy insisted that many in the industry knew his real name. In the human resources forms he filled out at the start of movie productions, he identified himself as Jason Murphy and gave copies of his passport and driver’s license, which listed that name.
“I wasn’t hiding it,” he said.
Murphy registered annually with authorities in West Hollywood, where he lived, and recalled telling the reserve sheriff’s deputy who met with him in 2009 that “sometimes I go by Jason James for short.” Called to the stand, the deputy, Marvin Goldsmith, said he could not recall the conversation.
But, Goldsmith said, he didn’t consider the name an alias because it was Murphy’s legal first and middle name. Under questioning by a prosecutor, Goldsmith said that since Murphy’s arrest last December he had started questioning the sex offenders he registered about whether they used other names in their jobs and listing those names on the registry form.
Judge Elden Fox said he would hear arguments from lawyers Wednesday morning before issuing a decision. Murphy faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison if convicted, but his attorney has said recent coverage of his criminal record has been a death sentence for his career.
On the stand, Murphy sounded wistful as he described how his success in films had grown steadily before his December arrest: “I didn’t have to send [resumes] out. They were calling me,” he said.